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A New Plymouth house masters the use of colour and texture

Tactile textures and a refined, yet fun palette bring the drama to a centrally located New Plymouth house Hannah wanted people to be surrounded by colour and texture the minute they step in the front door.

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Meet & greet: Campbell (company director) and Hannah Mattson (interior designer) and their children Harry, 14, Maggie, 12, and Fergus, nine.

The property: Five-bedroom, three-bathroom new-build built on a steep section in New Plymouth.

The build of Campbell and Hannah Mattson’s architectural home would have had Kevin McCloud salivating.

Hearing how the couple intended to build on a 560sqm “ridiculously steep section that is both tight and reasonably narrow,” as Hannah puts it, would have caused his ears to prick up, considering the impracticality of building on a steep site with access from only one side.

Then consider the fact that we were building the home nestled among existing towering trees while trying to comply with regulations around needing certain levels of daylight in all rooms. And, of course, Kevin’s enduring Grand Designs favourite: a limited budget.

The Soren Liv dining table was bought for the space, says Hannah. “I’ve decided that round tables deserve more appreciation. They accommodate lots of people for their size, and make conversation easy and equal.” The Vitra chairs are from Citta and the pendant light is from ECC Lighting.

It had all the makings of a good TV drama but, sadly for Kevin, the challenging build went smoothly with the experienced Mattsons at the helm.

Cam and Hannah Mattson own Location Homes in New Plymouth so they know a thing or two about building.

Although, this five-bedroom home certainly put their skills to the test. “Nothing was ordinary or straightforward. Our amazing builders certainly had a lot of opportunities to hone their problem-solving skills,” says Hannah.

Hannah says she takes many things into consideration when choosing which colours to use. “The deep, rich kitchen tile colour works with the dark walnut kitchen.”

“Being a complex build, it was also the first home we constructed using structurally insulated panels, so the team faced the additional challenge of adapting to a new system.

“Also, the house is sitting on more than 100 massive piles drilled up to four metres into the ground. Needless to say, there were some frustrating months battling Taranaki rain to get up out of the mud.”

Hannah and Cam bought the section in 2015 and shifted into the home in September 2018. Although the site was challenging, it had a lot going for it. Such as the views of the Te Henui stream, the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, and the green of the local croquet club.

Hannah loves sitting in the beanbag by the window, looking at the river and watching all the dogs take their owners for walks. The wooden box coffee table was found on Trade Me, the natural coloured couch is by Soren Liv. The artworks include Waves by Isaac Peterson and Mental WOF by Paul Rangiwahia.

Being surrounded by nature creates the feeling of a green oasis far from the bustle of everyday life, while its central location offers convenience for the family of five. The design incorporates as much of the outside greenery as possible, so it feels like the house is up among the trees.

“Because the house needed to be square to fit the site, we designed an atrium to sit in the centre of the home. Bringing light into the lower-level bedrooms and creating a spacious feeling on the middle level, where the living areas are separated by glass but still open, would be achieved.

“During the excavation stage of the build, unfortunately, we damaged a beautiful big native tree that we had designed the house around, which would have come up through the atrium. We have planted a replacement and it will be beautiful once it grows and fills the space with greenery again.”

“The deep green tiles wrapped right around the ceiling in a woven pattern is dramatic, and it takes your eye down into the house and out to the trees beyond, creating a sense of intrigue. It’s built-in artwork, and the tiler Dave is a talented artist.”

The couple collaborated with Murali Bhaskar from Boon Architects to turn their vision into reality. Their list of wishes was long, but their budget wasn’t quite as extensive. All in good time, was their mantra.

“What we’ve learnt from past builds is to take a long-term view and invest in certain things that are important,” says Hannah.

“Our priority was to get the bones right, then add to it as time and budget allowed. We invested money in things that can’t easily be added or changed later, such as the automated lighting system and the ducted heating and cooling system.

“To make our budget work, we planned to move in when unfinished and chip away at the interior finishes when we could. I’m glad we did it because without time and patience, we would never have achieved the finished product we have today.”

The kids’ hallway is painted in rose-pink Dulux Kelburn is all about fun and gives Hannah immense joy. “it’s the kids’ area, so I wanted it to be uplifting and not too serious.”

They were also mindful of creating spaces that would work for their family as the kids grow.

“One of my favourite practical features is the kids’ bathroom,” says Hannah. “Murali designed it so that opaque glass doors separate the functional spaces, allowing three people to use the bathroom with privacy, all at the same time.”

The interior designer designed the stunning balustrade and eye-catching built-in bookcases in the lounge.

Something that didn’t make the final plan was Hannah’s dream of having a sunken lounge.

“It was high on my list of priorities. Everybody needs a sunken lounge surrounded by built-in bookcases with soft lighting, a window seat and soft, feathery cushions, don’t they? Apparently not,” she says.

The pink linen cover is by Kip & Co from Little Haus in New Plymouth and the side table is a Kartell Componibili from Bijou Eliot.

However, the Location Homes’ interior designer had a strong influence when it came to design choices in the home.

She designed the balustrade in the lounge going down the stairs, and the built-in bookcases in the lounge. Some of the artwork is also her handiwork. But where she really made her mark was her use of colour.

“Colour is my thing. Obviously. I chose muted colours because they are easy to live in and they help to create a mood, but they’re also subtle…

The colourful blanket on the bed is from Citta and the walls are painted in Dulux Zen Half.

“…Well, except for the pink kids’ hallway. I carefully chose each colour depending on the purpose of the space as well as considering how the colours worked together, and how they worked with the outside backdrop.

“For example, the snug is a very peaceful colour and flows nicely from the kitchen and frames the trees outside. Throughout the house I used a mixture of warm colours offset with cool colours for balance.”

The headboard is by Soren Liv, the bed linen is from Bijou Eliot and the wall paint colour is Dulux Rimaldo.

Hannah reckons colour in a home goes a long way to creating a feeling – and the feeling her rose pink hallway brings her is joy.

“The pink hallway with its architraves and doors in a high-gloss plum is just about having a bit of fun and it makes me so happy. It’s the kids’ area so I wanted it to be uplifting and not too serious, but not too childish either.”

Hannah’s decor style draws loosely on her love of the art deco/art nouveau periods, with their beautiful colors, patterns, and luxurious textures.

Hannah designed a key art deco style feature in the homes: the balustrade, which doubles as a room divider. It runs floor to ceiling over two floors, adding height and drama, and casts beautiful shadows as the sun moves around in the evening.

“The big piece in the main bedroom is by Hawke’s Bay artist Susan Davidson, our first art investment. Our son put a pair of scissors through the canvas when he was three. Not his finest moment, or mine either. I’ve patched it up and somehow now it’s worth more to me than before. Funny how that works,” she says.

Warmth was added to this guest room on the third level with the clever use of Dulux Desert Soil. Art is important to Hannah. “Sometimes, I’ll buy a small piece of art to remind me of a place I’ve been or a special moment in my life.”

Throughout the house is built-in furniture, which Hannah says is not just an effective way to make the most of a space. It was also an opportunity to add character to a modern home.

Her favourites are the bookcases in the lounge. “I went for a more delicate art nouveau design on the side panels. The mirror at the back of the bookcases reflects light and adds dimension to the room. I love them.”

They’re also a great place to display trinkets and treasures. Hannah has found and fallen in love with plenty of items.

“I’m a collector. My philosophy is to buy once and buy well. Longevity is key. That doesn’t mean that everything needs to be expensive. I love a bargain, too, and I adore a mixture of old and new. The children and I name all our special pieces of furniture and plants – they’re family members.”

With so much of their heart and soul in this home, you’d think the Mattsons would want to stay here forever. But they have their eye on another house. Someone call Kevin McCloud.

Hannah’s tips on using coloured paint:

  • I always say absolutely go for it. Get together samples of other surfaces in your home. For example, your kitchen joinery, benchtop and flooring, so you can experience visually how the colours will flow together.
  • There is colour inspiration everywhere. Start with a piece of art, a beautiful scarf, your favourite ceramic bowl, a natural stone, or a landscape. Pick colours that speak to you.
  • Once you’ve got your paint colours, the next stage is important: layering textures. Not matchy-matchy, but complementary. Consult with an expert if it helps give you confidence.

The bathroom mirrors are cabinets, providing storage space so the couple could have their cylindrical sinks. “That’s a feature I fought for and won. My husband now loves them, of course. Everything is stored at eye level, eliminating the need to lean over a vanity cabinet to get up close and personal with the mirror.”

Home truths

What’s on your furniture wishlist?
One day I will own an Attila Gnome side table by Philippe Starck for Kartell. That’s a happy day to look forward to. I also hope to one day own a painting by local artist Harry Moores.

Best purchase? 
The spa. We had to crane it in over the house to the lower deck, but it was absolutely worth it. It turns out that nobody has their phone in the spa. The best family conversations happen there, and it’s where we raise and discuss all of life’s deep questions. Magic.

What do most visitors comment on?
The view out to the river and the colour combinations. Everybody touches the textured wallpaper.

Text: Debbie Harrison Photography: Gina Fabish

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